Guest review by Christina Boyd
Debut author Nancy Kelley’s self-published novel, His Good Opinion, A Mr. Darcy Novel, is the parallel story to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, told from this male protagonist’s point of view. Fatigued from London’s matchmaking mamas, Darcy never imagined a country miss could captivate him and yet, while visiting his good friend, Charles Bingley, that is exactly what occurs! The lovely Miss Elizabeth Bennet is everything he is not, warm and vivacious – and despite her poor connections, it is not long ere Darcy realizes he could be in real danger of Cupid’s arrow. Therefore Darcy arrogantly urges Bingley to give up his blossoming courtship with Elizabeth’s sister, extricating both from possible matrimonial misadventure, yet ironically, threatens to entomb all he loves in turmoil and regret as a result.
Upon his return to London, Darcy firmly attempts to put Elizabeth Bennet from his mind, but to his surprise, she is not so easily forgotten. “…and then she (Georgianna) sang a sweet country song of love and friendship. “Where have I heard this recently?” It was not until she reached the chorus that he knew — Elizabeth had sung the song at the Lucas’s party. He reached out to slam the door shut, but realized just in time that the sound would give away his eavesdropping. He dropped instead into a chair, his book lying on the floor, utterly forgotten. Georgianna continued to sing, but it was another’s voice he heard. He buried his face in his hands, but he could not erase the image of Elizabeth Bennet from his mind’s’eye.” p. 136
I enjoyed how Kelley allows us to see how Darcy misinterprets all his interactions with Elizabeth, as well as how he thought he was signaling his intentions, “‘When next you are in Kent, your stay will give you ample opportunity to become intimately acquainted with her ladyship’s ability to manipulate the lives of those around her.’ Her cheeks tinged with a faint pink that he felt sure was not merely a reflection of the sunrise. Darcy mentally reviewed his words and realized he had as good as said he expected her to stay at Rosings when next he was in Kent. His own color rose to match hers, but he held her gaze. Let her see my intent, he thought. It will not be long before I openly declare myself.” p. 175-176. Poor Darcy. If he had only known how his very presence vexed her!
Although there is much repetition of actual Austen dialogue and passages (of which I find infinitely preferable to when authors’ tweek Austen’s dialogue for no apparent reasoning,) Kelley’s own scene and dialogue additions were successful devices in showing us Darcy’s thought process. “Darcy wished very much to speak with Elizabeth; the difficulty was, he could not say any of the things he wished when they were in company. He looked over at her, and suddenly he knew exactly what he could say to direct the teasing away from himself. He sighed and glanced at Elizabeth and Richard. “You consider it ill-fortune to have met someone here who could expose all your faults—imagine my bad luck then, to always have my cousin with me.” p. 180 I appreciated that even at Rosings, Darcy was attempting to make himself more agreeable to Elizabeth. Even if he was the only one to notice at the time.
I especially loved when Lady Catherine comes to London to warn Darcy of the rumor that Miss Elizabeth Bennet is engaged to him, “‘You will take into account what I have told you? This Bennet creature is determined to have you, Darcy – take heed.’ Excitement rose in Darcy’s breast at the thought. ‘I shall indeed heed your words, Lady Catherine. You have been a tremendous help.’” p. 314 Ha, ha. Poor Lady Catherine. How she would hate to learn how her intelligence had been of infinite use to the future felicity of Darcy and Elizabeth!
Coming off the heels of the refreshing five star novel about a lesser known Austen hero, Henry Tilney’s Diary by Amanda Grange, I was somewhat apprehensive about reading yet another re-telling of Pride and Prejudice from Mr. Darcy’s point of view. Because really, what more could be said that hasn’t all ready been written? ie. Grange’s Mr. Darcy’s Diary, Pamela Aiden’s Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman series, Mary Street’s The Confession of Fitzwilliam Darcy, Maya Slater’s The Private Diary of Mr. Darcy … and the list goes on. I must confess that the first few chapters did read a bit redundant. But I stayed the course, because it did appear a faithful narrative and perfectly harmless interpretation of Austen’s masterpiece, and lo and behold, as soon as Darcy left the environs of Hertfordshire, my interest was peaked. It seemed all of the sudden the author hit her stride and Darcy’s insights and meanderings as the story progressed became more acute and developed.
This proper re-telling of Austen’s classic of a cautionary tale about the evils of hasty judgement, as seen through the eyes of Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, is charming. Nancy Kelley’s Darcy is very likeable, especially as we are witness to his failings and shortfalls – and how he later is resolved to become a better man, a man worthy of Elizabeth. His Good Opinion bears up well to its predecessors and I daresay, after reading it, you too will declare your good opinion for this first time author’s offering.
4 out of 5 Regency Stars
His Good Opinion: A Mr. Darcy Novel, by Nancy Kelley
Smokey Rose Press (2011)
Trade paperback (352) pages
Christina Boyd lives in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest with her dear Mr. B, two youngish children and a Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Bibi. She studied Fine Art at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art and received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from Salisbury University in Maryland. For the last nine years she has created and sold her own pottery line from her working studio. Albeit she read Jane Austen as a moody teenager, it wasn’t until Joe Wright’s 2005 movie of Pride & Prejudice that sparked her interest in all things Austen. A life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, visiting Jane Austen’s England remains on her bucket list.
© 2007 – 2011 Christina Boyd, Austenprose